Could You Say It In Only Three Words?
Great episode, wasn’t it? When I watched again, I hurriedly jotted down one great speech after another, but I couldn’t get myself to write down observations or feelings or anything like that. You see, I was too busy watching and enjoying.
Enjoying what? Ah, Carina, of course. DEA Agent Miller is an incredible character. And since I happened to see actress Mini Anden just yesterday playing a very different character in an episode of NCIS, I have great respect for her abilities too. I enjoy how she shakes up Sarah, and Chuck, and mostly Morgan.
An episode that starts with the line Los Angeles has all the cultural panache of a port-a-potty. has got to be good.
I know why I took down so many quotes. It’s because the characters tell us so much. Do you want to know exactly where Chuck stands with Sarah? Ask Carina. She’ll tell you.
Carina: You’re sleeping with him!
Sarah: We have a very professional relationship.
Carina: (surprised) Oh!
Carina: Nothing. – You’re just really into him. That’s all.
Sarah: Can we please not talk about Chuck?
Carina: (pauses) Oh My God, Walker!
Carina: You broke the cardinal rule of spying, didn’t you!
Clue brick – incoming! If Carina’s words didn’t tell you, Sarah’s slamming the drink down (and then slamming it down on the bar – heh!) certainly did. Viewers wondered all summer and fall how Chuck’s re-intersecting would affect the way Sarah thinks about him. Well, we found out here, for sure, that even if there were serious complications, she still loves the boy. Good. Now, Sarah, will you PLEASE tell him?
‘Shipper fans that we are, we always enjoy seeing signs that Sarah has strong feelings for Chuck. Easily missed, though, were the reasons that Sarah was having such a hard time with them. Her visceral reactions are telling.
There’s a scene when Karl joins Chuck, Sarah and Carina, and is introduced as Carina’s fiancé. When Karl leaves and Chuck is told that he’s just Carina’s mark, she’s incensed to find that Chuck thought she was really in love with the guy.
Carina: Do you think I am an idiot? It’s the cardinal rule. Spies don’t fall in love.
Okay. Chuck is convinced, and as far as his relationship with Sarah is concerned, he should resign himself to his roll and his fate. You can almost hear him say “Yeah, yeah. I know. You don’t have to tell me twice. Or half a dozen times, as the case might be…” But notice that when Carina says this, it’s Sarah who looks like she’s been punched in the gut. That’s visceral.
This episode is full of things like that. Sarah is pained over having to hide her emotions, and seems to be sad and wistful over the prospect when she asks Carina the same question she once asked Casey.
Sarah: Do you ever wonder about a different life?
Carina: You mean, like if all this was real? Hmmm – if we were really getting ready for my engagement party?
Carina: (pauses) Naw!
(and chambers a round in her 38.)
Sarah can be professional, though, and play her role. The truth bubbles up despite her best efforts when Chuck and Sarah fall back into their familiar boyfriend/girlfriend cover.
Sarah: Congratulations! You are going to have the most amazing life!
Chuck: You are a very lucky man, Karl.
Karl: Thanks, Chuck. I’m sure you’re going to be next up the alter.
Chuck: (laughs) I’d be the happiest guy in the world.
Sarah: (laughs) He really would be!
See what happens, Chuck, when you try to tempt Sarah? She’ll throw it back in your face.
Or is she agreeing with you? I can’t tell, and neither can Chuck. That’s a device, a way to keep us just a little concerned and just a little worried about their relationship.
It’s not news to us that Carina has Sarah pegged. So does Ellie, Morgan, Casey, Devon, General Beckman, Big Mike… the list goes on to include a few baddies too I believe, like Pita Girl (Marlin) and Smooth Lau (Best Friends). Carina just likes to be direct about her intel.
Carina: What the hell are you doing to my mission? You and Sarah are supposed to be the happy couple.
Chuck: Look – Ever since I got back from Prague Sarah’s been so cold…
Carina: Oh you idiot! The reason Sarah’s cold is because she loves you.
The only surprising thing is that Carina is the one person Chuck seems to believe. The others, he discounts. Every time I’m confronted by a 6′ Swedish-type supermodel/spy, I believe her too.
We’ve gone over the next (brilliant) scene before in detail, the scene that leads to Chuck’s death-bed confession ending with him collapsing in Sarah’s arms saying the three words. Ernie’s analysis is still amazing. Like Sarah, we hear the speech in two parts, and only after putting the two together do we realize that Chuck is trying to explain why he couldn’t run away with Sarah in Prague and that Sarah didn’t hear him. Did you realize that there is a third part, that comes between?
When Karl comes to the Buy More and forces Carina into the van, he plays a different part of the recording on the car’s video system. We hear Chuck say I’m not like Carina – some cold hearted spy that throws around words like love. If only Sarah had heard that part.
What we didn’t understand then, but do now, is Sarah reasons for acting the way she did afterwards. But at that time we only understood that Sarah knew she has a problem.
Sarah: It’s about me managing Chuck, and keeping his emotions in check, so that the intersect can work. I’m beginning to think that I’m more a part of the problem than the solution. And I think a different agent might have more success in training him.
General Beckman sees it differently, tells Sarah to “get over it and teach Chuck to be a real spy.” We see it now as an open invitation to introduce Daniel Shaw. It is, perhaps, Sarah’s biggest mistake.
In anger, Sarah tries to do just what the General says – train Chuck. In the most emotionally intense scene to date, we see the training session end in abject failure.
Sarah: (shouting) You want to be a spy, you need to act like one!
Chuck: It doesn’t work, okay. It’s not working. I’m – too emotional.
Sarah: The trick is to ignore your emotions. Spies do NOT have feelings. Feelings get you killed. You need to learn to bury them in a place deep inside.
Chuck: Sarah – stop.
Sarah: (shouting) Come-on! Flash! Show me your attack skills!
Chuck: (putting down his bo) No.
Sarah: (demanding) Why not?
Chuck: Because I don’t want to hurt you.
Sarah painfully sends Chuck to the deck.
Sarah: Don’t worry, Chuck. You can’t.
It’s hard to not see that Sarah’s the one who’s failing. She’s not only failing at training Chuck, she’s failing to control the emotions she can no longer bury. Every word she utters returns to her like a well thrown boomerang.
Sarah may not want Chuck to be “professional”, but he does. She knows, or will soon, that he wants to help the world. Sarah loves him and will do anything she can to help him attain his goal. But she is angry and frustrated because no matter what she does, Chuck’s happiness is in conflict with hers, and with theirs as a couple. The naive boy doesn’t see it. Does he? Back at the fountain, the place where truth is told…
Karl: Shoot me, or shoot her. I don’t care. Bitch has broken my heart. She dies!
Chuck: I get it, Okay? You took a chance – you, you love someone, maybe for the first time in your life. All you’ve ever done before is – is shut off your feelings. You bury them, deep down inside because in your profession, in your line of work, it’s a liability, right? It can certainly – be a liability.
And I know – I know that you think you messed up your life because you opened up your heart. But maybe you helped her open up her heart in the process. Maybe because you love her, she’ll learn how to love too.
Well, not the best Chuck-speech (ugh!), but watch the camera work. Chuck is behind and to the left of Sarah, and the focus shifts between them so our attention is drawn, not to Chuck’s words, but on the affect they have on Sarah. Like Elvis Costello sang, Chuck’s aim is true; his words hit home.
In typical Chuck fashion, Carina’s warning to Chuck and Sarah proves to be a true lie, even for her. Carina, that living example of the emotionally un-involved spy, gets herself smitten by – Morgan, of all people. Well, maybe not permanently, but wonderfully. Hey! Did we know that Carina’s last name was Miller before this? The first annoying, hanging mystery of season 3.0 is that weapon. I don’t think it’s the lock box that Shaw opens in First Class, and even Carina isn’t told what it is.
The Three Words holds up very well to re-watching. I can’t help but notice that this episode seems to end for me right here, on this happy note, with Morgan and Carina. What remains, though is the rest of the season, which begins moments later, when Sarah hears the rest of Chuck’s speech. She’s already heard “Sarah, I love you.” What she hears now is how much Chuck hated his old loser-life, and how much he wants to live a real life now, a life that has meaning. It’s the life Chuck thinks she’s led, the very one that Sarah has found to be “not real”. That giant sucking sound is Sarah realizing that Chuck wants the one thing that could keep her from him. He wants to change.
No, Sarah will not tell him; she will not destroy his dreams. Sarah loves him too much for that.